They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by Anni on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
After the All American Muslim/Lowe’s fiasco I’m a little overwhelmed with television. I’ve read about a hundred blog posts about why reality television is the right forum for exploring islamophobia, and about a hundred posts about why it’s all wrong for the job. To summarize: reality television’s ubiquity makes it accessible, but it also cheapens human experience and sensationalizes real issues. Reality television isn’t real, it’s edited and produced. The image we see of a “normal” Muslim family is a product of our appetite for entertainment. This means, while it may do some good, it may also be exploitative and misleading.
I’m about as sick as a person can be of this particular controversy but it did make me start to think about how entertainment can be used for promoting healthy dialogue. Whilst researching that idea I came across a year-old quote from Katie Couric on the topic. Somehow I missed this insulting gem the first time around. Couric: “Maybe we need a Muslim version of The Cosby Show. I know that sounds crazy but The Cosby Show did so much to change the attitudes about African Americans in this country, and I think sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
The fancy Huxtable family home:
I’ve always felt slightly insulted by the cultural street cred the Cosby show enjoys. Yes, it’s great to have approachable public figures like Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey that create a positive public image for a minority, but when that image is manufactured it reflects a stereotype of safety. The Cosby Show is about a professional, black family. They’re rich, upper class, highly educated and decidedly bland. It’s no surprise that people felt like they could relate to the Huxtables—they were engineered to appeal to a general audience. The show stripped away African American culture leaving a digestible, starchy snack food of a show that made people feel good about their open mindedness.
I’m not sure a sitcom like that about a Muslim family would do anything but insult real Muslim families. Removing the controversial aspects of a culture may be great for promoting a safe public image but does it really serve the greater cause? I don’t want to cater to people’s prejudice by providing them with a simplistic and fake representation of reality.
Maybe I’m asking for too much. I just think the deep controversy over extremism, the history, the media firestorm, the pervasive prejudice, are all important parts of the Muslim American story. Maybe a show like All in the Family would be better—a show that makes fun of all the cultural baggage with a character we can love to hate. That’s something I’d watch.